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Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs

Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs: Periodical Culture and Post-Napoleonic Authorship

Karen Fang
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs
    Book Description:

    Nineteenth-century periodicals frequently compared themselves to the imperial powers then dissecting the globe, and this interest in imperialism can be seen in the exotic motifs that surfaced in works by such late Romantic authors as John Keats, Charles Lamb, James Hogg, Letitia Landon, and Lord Byron. Karen Fang explores the collaboration of these authors with periodical magazines to show how an interdependent relationship between these visual themes and rhetorical style enabled these authors to model their writing on the imperial project.

    Fang argues that in the decades after Waterloo late Romantic authors used imperial culture to capitalize on the contemporary explosion of periodical magazines. This proliferation of "post-Napoleonic" writing-often referencing exotic locales-both revises longstanding notions about literary orientalism and reveals a remarkable synthesis of Romantic idealism with contemporary cultural materialism that heretofore has not been explored. Indeed, in interlocking case studies that span the reach of British conquest, ranging from Greece, China, and Egypt to Italy and Tahiti, Fang challenges a major convention of periodical publication. While periodicals are usually thought to be defined by time, this account of the geographic attention exerted by late Romantic authors shows them to be equally concerned with space.

    With its exploration of magazines and imperialism as a context for Romantic writing, culture, and aesthetics, this book will appeal not only to scholars of book history and reading cultures but also to those of nineteenth-century British writing and history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2882-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Empire, Periodicals, and Late Romantic Writing
    (pp. 1-30)

    This book is about the power accorded literary periodicals by late Romantic authors, who inhabited an era of tremendous growth in the periodical press. The “years between Waterloo and the passage of the first Reform Bill greatly enlarged the audience for periodicals,” Richard Altick has already noted; this marked expanse in periodical publications was due to the era’s “social and political turmoil” and was spurred by re cent economic and technological developments, such as the invention of the steam press, the perfection of steel-plate engraving, and the re opening of Continental trade (which renewed access to paper rag), that enabled...

  5. One China for Sale: Porcelain Economy in Lamb’s Essays of Elia
    (pp. 31-65)

    Few studies of Charles Lamb give sufficient attention to the impact of magazines on the development of his style and literary reputation. The occasionally obscure but often beloved essayist is known for the baroque and whimsical voice he unveiled in the series of essays he published from 1820 to 1824 in theLondon Magazine,and later collected asThe Essays of EliaandThe Last Essays of Elia,but most studies of Lamb tend to focus on his personal biography, particularly his lifelong friendship with Coleridge or his sister Mary’s 1796 murder of their mother in a fit of insanity....

  6. Two Deciphering The Private Memoirs: James Hogg’s Napoleon Complex
    (pp. 66-103)

    While Lamb found magazine collaboration to have uniformly positive effects, James Hogg underwent a more malignant process. His bizarre Gothic novel,The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner,the 1824 work for which Hogg is best known today, is commonly recognized as an autobiographical allegory about the author’s wranglings withBlackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine,the powerful monthly with which Hogg was affiliated from the magazine’s inception.¹ In the novel, set in Scotland mostly during the era of religious controversy and the move toward Union in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Hogg allegorizesBlackwood’spower over him through...

  7. Three “But Another Name for Her Who Wrote”: Corinne and the Making of Landon’s Giftbook Style
    (pp. 104-141)

    Letitia Landon died in Africa in 1838, a fate that may at first seem to be an extreme instance of imperial involvement, far exceeding the past three case studies in the degree and actuality of her foreign experience. But if Landon’s death on foreign shores appears an extraordinary case of imperial engagement, it also exaggerates what was actually an ambiguous and often invisible relationship to empire in her literary and periodical writing. Best known for her work in the giftbooks and literary annuals, the lavishly bound and heavily illustrated yearly volumes that were a publishing phenomenon in the 1820s through...

  8. Four Only “a Little above the Usual Run of Periodical Poesy”: Byron’s Island and the Liberal
    (pp. 142-178)

    Byron’s epigraph toChilde Haroldfamously describes the world as a type of book, in which familiarity with only one country is comparable to having read only one page.

    The universe is a kind of book of which you have read but one page when you have seen only your own country. I have leafed through a sufficient number to have found them equally bad. This study has not been unprofitable for me. I hated my country. All the peculiarities of the different people among whom I have lived have reconciled me to it. Even if I should have gained...

  9. Conclusion: Space, Time, and the Periodical Collaborator
    (pp. 179-190)

    InRomantic Genius and the Literary Magazine,David Higgins argues that the solitary genius so sacred to Romantic ideals is a socially constructed phenomenon that owes as much to the extrinsic affirmations of the periodical press as it does to the intrinsic abilities of an individual author. According to Higgins, “Whether or not there is such a thing as ‘genius’ is perhaps less important than the fact [that] most people involved in the cultural field have believed . . . in its existence and value.”¹ For Higgins, early-nineteenth-century periodicals are one of the most obvious and vital forms of that...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 191-206)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-222)
  12. Index
    (pp. 223-236)